Month: February 2011

Review: The Housekeeper and the Professor

The Housekeeper and the ProfessorThe Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A good friend of mine suggested me to read this book, saying that if I can fall in love with Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro I would definitely fall head over heels with one.

And she is correct. It is a thin book, it is, but it must have been the language style, the emotions embedded that kept me reading non-stop on a Saturday morning.

I have never loved Mathematics as a subject, often find myself unable to remember even my PIN, though having been an engineering student numbers should have been my daily staple.

But I have to admit seeing the passion of someone on something is inspiring, and reading this makes me understand the fascination of a mathematician on numbers – amicable numbers, twin numbers, prime numbers – and I was left as amazed as the Housekeeper about it.

The writer did well. I wish I knew if she had the same, deep interest in numbers because she really nailed it. And I have to copy these lines here, lines that had me struck by its brilliance:

"’That makes sense, Root. But when you get to much bigger numbers – a million or ten million – you’re venturing into a wasteland where the primes are terribly far apart.

‘A wasteland?’

‘That’s right, a desert. No matter how far you go, you don’t find any. Just sand as far as the eye can see. The sun shines down mercilessly, your throat is parched, your eyes glaze over. Then you think you see one, a prime number at last, and you go running towards] it – only to find that it’s just a mirage, nothing but hot wind. Still you refuse to give up, staggering on step by step determined to continue the search..until you see it at last, the oasis of another prime number, a place of rest and cool, clear water…’"

That’s genius, is not it? Not everyone can describe the exercise of looking for prime numbers in such a beautiful way.

So I said, if you’d like to see a blend of facts in a novel and it doesn’t make you feel like you are reading a textbook, try this one.

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